HMRC: Boots Opticians under the status microscope

HMRC has recently written to a significant number of opticians who have received gross payments from Boots Opticians Professional Services without the deduction of tax or national insurance.

In the letter, HMRC stresses it needs ‘to check if Boots Opticians Professional Services did correctly treat you as self-employed for the work undertaken. We call this ‘employment status’.’

Whilst stressing the letter does not constitute a formal enquiry into the optician themselves, the HMRC Employer Duties Specialist who has signed the letter is nevertheless requesting a meeting or telephone call with the optician in receipt of the money, to discuss the work undertaken for Boots and the terms and conditions which applied.

Nigel Nordone, one of our in house employment status experts comments:

‘These letters only started arriving in the last two weeks and have, quite understandably, been unnerving for the opticians who have received them. Although the letters state HMRC is looking into Boots Opticians Professional Services rather than enquiring into the optician’s self assessment tax return, many of the opticians will naturally be concerned about the implications for themselves.
This is especially so because HMRC wants to see documents including contracts and invoices relating to the work done.’

The letters go on to warn that some, or all of the information provided, may need to be shared with Boots Opticians Professional Services as part of the status decision making process. This may well have implications for any future engagement or working relationship.

If anyone who has received one of these letters requires professional advice on the technical issues involved, then please contact Nigel at n.nordone@abbeytax.co.uk  Nigel is a former HMRC employment status inspector and is ideally qualified to provide practical support and advice.

On a final note and, perhaps a sign of how HMRC harvests information about people and analyses it using its Connect software, the penultimate paragraph of the letter states:

‘HMRC may observe, monitor, record and retain internet data which is available to anyone. This is known as ‘open source’ material and includes news reports, internet sites, Companies House and Land Registry reports, blogs and social networking sites where no privacy settings have been applied.’

This demonstrates how far and wide HMRC now trawls for evidence of any potential tax evasion from property transactions to observing social media accounts for clues of luxurious lifestyles which do not match with income data received or trading accounts filed.

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